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Wednesday, 18 November 1959

Mr MINOGUE (West Sydney) (1:13 AM) . - It is with a certain amount of regret that I rise to oppose the amendment. I shall give my reasons for doing so. I am aware of two or three marriages that have gone on the rocks, and I shall tell the committee about one of them. It will probably be necessary to call upon the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick), the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and, possibly, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to sort out this case. It is one that deserves consideration. It concerns a young couple who were married at the age of about 20 years. Possibly no pair that ever approached the altar were better looking than these two. In about six and a half years, three children were born to the marriage. Very soon afterwards, the man seduced a married woman, or she seduced him - I do not know which. At least, it was the finish of home life for his wife and three children. He was found to be living with this other woman and paying for a flat for her accommodation - or his own; I do not know which. The point I want to make is that when it was revealed that the second woman had a child six years of age, who was living with her husband, the man went away. He told his wife that he was going to work in the country and would come back. His wife was left with the three children. But shortly afterwards it was found that he was living with the second woman, to whom another child was born.

I have asked a few lawyers about this case - certainly they were bush lawyers - and they told me that the second man had a claim on this gentleman because he had pinched his wife and consequently destroyed the home life of himself and the child. Where does the wife come in? I think that this man earns only the basic wage. The other man has a claim on him for the loss of his wife. The second woman has a son to be kept. I do not want to be interrupted by honorable members who are interjecting from the other side. I want to tell my story as best I can. This young woman was married, to use the AttorneyGeneral's words, on sentimental grounds - for better or for worse - and by now you know that it was for worse.

The CHAIRMAN - Order! I ask the committee to come to order. There is far too much noise and laughter during the consideration of this very serious business. Solemnity must be observed.

Mr MINOGUE - This young married woman has now gone to work. Her mother is looking after the three children. As it was a Catholic marriage, the wife does not want a divorce. If she got a divorce from this man, by the time his wages had been cut three ways, she would not be able to keep the children on her share.

The position I want to clear up is this: According to the Attorney-General, this man could not get a divorce because he has committed adultery. He has committed every crime in the marriage calendar. Nevertheless, if the wife refused to defend his petition, it would be granted. Honorable members opposite, by interjections, deny that, but it is so. This woman is the innocent party and she has had enough of the marriage. When the court is reached, he will get a divorce. It would be far better if this Parliament, instead of making laws and regulations to allow people to carry on like that, were to make laws to deal with such scoundrels. I hope and trust that the Attorney-General will not simply class as sentimental the girl or woman about whom I have spoken.

The eyes of the world are on the bill. After the bill is passed, thousands of people will not live up to their obligations. Anybody who has been dealing with lawyers knows that a woman left in a position similar to that which I have described cannot get social service benefits until she takes the man to court and gets a decree. I know of a case that went on for four or five months. The woman in the case was asked by the department whether she had taken her husband to court. When she said that she had not done so, she was told that until she did take him to court she could not get social service payments. That is the anomalous position in which persons are being placed. I hope that the AttorneyGeneral will change the provision and make a better job of the bill than he has made of it so far.

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